Ubiquitously known for its serene and natural beauty, the Adirondack Mountains in New York State is a dream destination. Unlike the Rocky or Appalachian Mountains, which are ranges, the Adirondacks are a series of peaks formed by ancient bedrock. Outdoorsy visitors have over 100 mountain peaks to explore, 46 of which are over 4,000 feet tall. Adirondack Park, of public and private ownership, is the most prominent Natural Historic Landmark in the lower 48 states. It can hold all of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Glacier Parks in its six million-acre footprint. Unsurprisingly, the towns throughout the Adirondack Mountains are known for their natural beauty and outdoor activities. Enjoy this collection of the ten must-visit small towns in the Adirondack Mountains.
It is a place so beautiful it was chosen for the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid was the final Olympics in a town of less than 15,000 people. Being in the heart of the Adirondacks had made Lake Placid the perfect venue for Olympic and recreational winter athletes. Athletic activities are still aplenty in Lake Placid and offer unique experiences at former Olympic venues, such as downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowshoeing, golfing, mountain climbing, cycling, and kayaking. It is not just winter sports available for the athletically-minded visitor to Lake Placid. Still, the cream of the crop of activities would probably be the bobsled and skeleton rides at the Olympic Sports Complex. For an even more historical experience, check out the Olympic Museum, which chronicles the past games of the Olympiad in Lake Placid.
Lake Placid is at the foothills of Whiteface Mountain, and experienced hikers come to take on the challenge of hiking the 3.6 miles, 3,050-foot elevation gain trail to the summit at 4867 feet. Lake Placid sits not only beside Lake Placid but also on Mirror Lake. This positioning grants visitors a bevy of rich experiences to choose from. For instance, there is the weekly summer concert series Songs at Mirror Lake and the "Orchestra of the Adirondacks" right in front of Lake Placid. For a relaxing time, visitors could hang out on Lake Placid Public Beach, go skating on the lakes in the winter, or take a sail or pontoon boat tour. Lake Placid Marina and Boat Tours offers an hour-long excursion on the calm waters with an audio guide and views of manors, wildlife, mountains, and 16 miles of pristine and clear water.
Those with a scientific curiosity will delight in a visit to Tupper Lake. The main attraction in town is the 81-acre indoor and outdoor museum that includes a four-story complex of treehouses on stilts, a replica eagle nest for spectacular views of the Adirondacks, a climate solutions exhibit, and animal encounters. And that is not all; upcoming in 2024, there will be a must-visit event for astronomers, amateurs to professionals alike, as the Adirondacks will be in the direct path of the totality of the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. This direct line of sight to a total solar eclipse has never been seen in the written history of the Adirondacks and will not be seen for another 20 years anywhere in the US. Imagine seeing this once-in-a-lifetime event in a venue such as the Wild Center (#2 on USA Today's list of science museums in the country).
Tupper Arts is another recommendation because of its beautiful art exhibits in the historic downtown, reminiscent of an era gone by. Indeed, the vista is stunning as Raquette Pond, an extension of Tupper Lake, sits in the background. The area has many lakes, ponds, and rivers, so water activities, hiking, and camping abound. Tupper Lake Municipal Park is an excellent choice in town, especially for families with little ones who would love Tupper Lake Playground. Finally, the significance of the total solar eclipse happening in the direct sightline of the Adirondacks in spring 2024 deserves another mention, and if you are planning on going, make sure to visit the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory website for more details!
Between the lakes of Lake George and Lake Champlain, next to the border of Vermont, is the town of Ticonderoga. This town represents the exciting juxtaposition of one lake having the name of King George of England and the other taking its name from the French explorer Samuel de Champlain. For this contentious history, tourists can visit the fabulous Fort Ticonderoga, built by the French but won by the British in the Revolutionary War. The fort initially had a more French-sounding name, Fort Carillon. Its stone walls are built in the shape of a star from an aerial view, and that's why this type of Bastille carries the name Star Fort. However, that's not where the galactic battles end, as the original Star Trek Original Set Tour is in Ticonderoga. Rebuilt to meticulous detail with the actual blueprints, the Star Trek tour is a chance for fans of the popular franchise to see and take pictures on the set of the popular show. There are many natural attractions in Ticonderoga by nature of being between two lakes in the Adirondacks. You will be rewarded for walking through the Lachute River Walk Trail by seeing a collection of 5 breathtaking waterfalls. There are many more walking trails and hiking trails. On Lake Champlain, you can enjoy biking, camping, or cross-country skiing in the winter. Ticonderoga has a bit of everything: historical structures, TV fandom heaven, and natural beauty for miles around.
The town of Champlain takes its name in homage to the first European explorer in the Adirondacks, Frenchman Samuel de Champlain. Champlain, the explorer, first came to the region in 1609 from the colony of New France, which is today the province of Quebec in Canada. It is only about a 40-mile journey from Montreal, the biggest city in Quebec. You can learn more about this history and the town's iron, telephone, and boating industries at the Champlain History Center. Visitors can also visit a majestic bronze memorial to Samuel de Champlain from 1907. Champlain came to the Adirondacks via the Richelieu River that meets the lake that takes his name, Lake Champlain. The town and the lake are on the border with Canada. Following the 7 Years War, more minor battles and the threat of more war between the English and French made the building of Fort Montgomery necessary in 1776. Fort Montgomery fell in action in 1777. The fort was rebuilt in 1844. Visitors can see the remnants of the old fort and visit the new defense, complete with original artifacts and weapons. The views from Fort Montgomery atop a cliff are spectacular, and you can see Lake Champlain and the Popolopen Suspension Bridge from a bird's eye view.
Lake George rests on the southern portion of the illustrious lake that gives it its namesake. This makes the town of Lake George the perfect place to begin an exploration of the 32-mile-long lake known as the "Queen of the American Lakes." Thus, many companies offer cruise tours of the lake from the town of Lake George, and two of the most popular are the Lake George Steamboat Company tour and the Minne-Ha-Ha Cruise.
Now, the location of the town of Lake George at the southernmost point of the lake makes it a strategic place in the Seven Years' War of 1755-1763, a war known as the first actual world war. The English built Fort William Henry, which the French took and burned due to the war. In 1950, locals undertook a complete rebuild according to the original plans, starting from scratch after excavating the site. Nowadays, Fort William Henry is the Fort William Henry Museum and a well-known tourist spot.
Lake George is much more peaceful now; many go to Million Dollar Beach for a fun and free day of leisure. The public beach house is beautiful with its octagonal domed interior, marvelous stained glass windows, and historical information. Close by to the beach is a rather unique experience sure to puzzle and fascinate your mind: the Lake George Mystery Spot. It's still a mystery why people who stand on the "X" made by two metal rails can hear their voices echoed back to them. This phenomenon only affects the person standing on the X, so trying it out with somebody else is excellent.
If visiting the Adirondacks, you will likely enjoy the mountains and may be an avid mountaineer or daring hiker. Keene is the perfect place to see the highest peaks in the Adirondacks. The highest of these is Mount Marcy, at over 5 300 feet in elevation. The 8-mile trail, which is not for beginners, starts just outside the town of Keene. On a clear day, folks can see Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. For those who reach the summit, there is a particular descent path where trekkers can get to Lake Tear of the Clouds, the source of the Hudson River. Lake Tear of the Clouds is also historically significant because it is where Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt was when he heard the news that President William McKinley was shot. Roosevelt then began hiking down on the start of a journey that ended with him being sworn in as president on the train to Buffalo.
If you are interested in a more leisurely hike, consider the Giant Mountain Trail, open year-round and presents a more straightforward challenge than the Mount Marcy Trail. There is also the incredible Roaring Brook Falls, a shorter hike that grants hikers views of the bottom and the top of the falls. After all the hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding, Keene offers many lodging, restaurant, and boutique shopping options.
The town of Indian Lake is a sprawling area encompassing many communities, the body of water of Indian Lake, and sections of the Hudson River. The heart of the town of Indian Lake is pretty small and does not even have any permanent stoplights, though there is a charming old one-room theater travelers might be tempted to go to. One of the communities in Indian Lake is Blue Mountain Lake, near the peak of Blue Mountain. Blue Mountain is one of the most famous mountains to visit in the Adirondacks and is a bit easier to climb at 3,750 feet. From the height, look out from the Tower at Blue Mountain, built in 1917. Back in town, the Museum on Blue Mountain Lake boasts 24 galleries and historic buildings ranging from wooden boats and boatmaking to logging exhibits and cultural exhibitions of the history of the Adirondacks. The museum will be open again on May 24, 2024. Another experience in Indian Lake is for the more adrenaline-minded, as Adirondack Adventures offers whitewater rafting experiences on some of the best whitewater rapids in New York.
Saranac Lake is a great place to visit in any season, especially winter, and is known as the heart of the Adirondacks. One of the highlights of Saranac Lake is the Winter Carnival in February. The major attraction of the two-week festival is the Ice Palace complex, a feat of creativity in architecture built differently every year. When visiting, you get bonus points if you don't sing "Let It Go" from Frozen. In the fall, Saranac Lake has a colorful array of foliage that can be seen on weaker Mountain Peak, a 1.6-mile hike from the edge of town. There are also opportunities to charter a classic sailboat from Sail Adirondacks on Upper Saranac Lake in the summer.
Long Lake is a lesser-known destination within the center of Adirondack Park. Its inconspicuousness is no accident, as locals hope to conserve its natural features. The lake is the fourth biggest of the 3000 or so in the Adirondacks. The hike to Buttermilk Falls is a splendid way to spend a chunk of the day. For a mountaintop excursion, consider the Owl's Head Mountain Summit. It is an excellent choice for individuals not into super challenging hikes, as the summit sits at 2,812 feet, much lower than many of the other peaks in the Adirondacks. Once there, hikers can see 360-degree views from a 35-foot climb from the fire tower at the highest peak on Owl's Mountain!
The town of North Creek is known as the birthplace of New York skiing. This is due to its landscape on Gore Mountain and the implementation of a tow rope to take skiers to the top back in the 11930. Nowadays, you can still go downhill skiing and snowboarding. Also, the town of North Creek maintains miles of excellent cross-country ski trails and backcountry skiing and snowshoeing trails. North Creek has a rich railroading history as it was the northern terminus of the region's railroad in yesteryear. This history is very much alive, as tourists can take four different railbike routes, including one over a rail bridge spanning the Hudson River. Rail fans also clamor to see the North Creek Depot Museum, which showcases historic rail cars and North Creek engines.
If you are planning to go to the Adirondacks, you undoubtedly enjoy physical activity. With so much land, parks, waterways, mountain peaks, and outdoor sports to choose from, even the avid athlete would be well advised to train before embarking on such a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Ensure you have your equipment in check to make the most of your time here. Warm clothing is especially recommended as the Adirondacks are unique to possibly any other destination in the lower 48 states: you will have an even more spectacular time here in the fall and winter.